PRELIMINARY plans have been submitted for two solar farms in the Winchester district.

Developers want to build a large solar farm near Three Maids Hill and also on farmland north-east of Old Alresford near Armsworth.

Agents for both developers have asked planners at the city council whether a full environmental impact assessment is needed. Planning officers have said one is not required for the Three Maids Hill plan. A decision on the proposal for Godsfield Lane, near Armsworth is awaited with a decision due by today (October 22).

The Three Maids Hill solar farm is likely to be more controversial as it is on a prominent site north of Winchester next to two main roads.

The applicant Environoma Asset Management proposes a 45-hectare farm on four fields on arable downland between the A272 and A34 north of the Three Maids Hill interchange. It would generate up to 25 megawatts (MW), enough to power 8,965 homes.

As well as hundreds of solar panels there would be associated infrastructure including fencing, substations, storage containers and battery storage so the power generated could be sent to the National Grid at the most efficient times.

In a letter to the city council the agents Pegasus said of the proposal: “This aims to address the local and national renewable energy targets and ultimately reduce the reliance on fossil fuel-based sources as a form of energy production.”

For the solar farm near Armsworth, Anesco proposes one capable of generating approximately 10 MW of electricity for 40 years, enough to power 3,000 homes.

A proposal for a solar farm next to the A31 near Ropley Dene in the summer was withdrawn after the applicant gauged the strength of local opposition against a farm at that location.

Ann J. Peal, chairman, South Wonston Parish Council, was non-committal about the Three Maids Hill plan and told the Chronicle: “South Wonston Parish Council has had sight of a Request for a Screening Opinion for a solar farm on land to the east of the A272 near the Water Tower and has learned that Winchester City Council has decided that an Environmental Impact Assessment isn’t required for the proposed development and that all the issues can be addressed through the planning application process. We are expecting a presentation from a planning representative of the company concerned and will closely examine any planning application submitted.”

Richard Smith, principal ecologist at Winchester City Council, told his colleagues in planning: “A number of protected species have been recorded in the vicinity, including Barn owl, lapwing, skylark, brown long-eared bat and badger, and there is potential for many other protected species on site. Therefore a full ecological report needs to assess the habitat suitability and presence of protected species as well as mitigation and compensation measures in relation to predicted impacts, including impacts of lighting on surrounding habitats. The proposed plan should show how the site is permeable to wildlife including badgers which may use the site for commuting and foraging.”

Local city councillor Stephen Godfrey said: “My thoughts on this emerging proposal are that it is very different to the two other nearby ‘concrete crusher’ proposals that will be a most unwelcome industrialisation of the countryside. The plan to put in a solar farm is much more compatible with the surrounding area, which is already marred in a minor way by existing development - water tower, A34, oil drilling head. I believe that there is a general acceptance among local residents that the electricity we all use has to come from the least polluting and least damaging source possible, so this goal falls to all of us to achieve.

“I think that the only matters of concern would be if access to footpaths, bridleways or woodland were reduced and that the land should be returned to agricultural use if/when the panels are removed.”

Initial reaction in the Armsworth area was opposed to the scheme, not least the person whose address is on the planning submission. Sarah Vey, in a letter to the council, said: “I am the owner of Godsfield Manor and I am somewhat surprised that our address has been used to file the above application. I have no intention of building a solar farm on our land and therefore deem it as a gross impertinence that by using our address Anesco has suggested to our neighbours and the outside world that I would do so.”

Simon and Lucy James, of Bugmore Hill, Old Alresford, told planners: “We are not against solar energy, far from it, but strongly believe it should be encouraged on brown field sites or on the roofs of new buildings NOT on green fields. The countryside is a very precious commodity in this day and age, something that many have benefitted from in the last six months and we need to save and conserve what we have left.”

Amanda and Ben Richardson, of Spiers Lane, Old Alresford, said: “We urgently wish to highlight the danger this installation with its heavy plant vehicles and extra traffic would bring to local road users - both in the construction phase, and in its ongoing maintenance.”

Keith Betton, chairman of the Hampshire Ornithological Society, raised the issue of an important breeding site for turtle doves at Weald Wood. The Hampshire population is less than 20 pairs.

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